Outdoor Afro’s Rue Mapp nominated as Bessie Awards finalist

Written By Candace Dantes

Published on Jan 27, 2023

Global lifestyle brand Wanderful has announced 2023 finalists of its fifth annual Bessie Awards, and this year’s nominees include Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. Mapp has been selected as a finalist under the JourneyWoman Award category, a lifetime achievement award for a person who has demonstrated long-term commitment to making the travel industry better. This award is presented in memory of JourneyWoman’s Evelyn Hannon.

“It’s truly an incredible honor to be recognized by the community,” said Mapp, whose social enterprise in 2009 called Outdoor Afro is today a national not-for-profit organization. “I’m personally touched by the person this award recognizes – a Black American woman, Bessie Coleman, who not only sought to travel in an era of exquisite and codified boundaries that limited that possibility for women who looked like her, but also had the audacity and tenacity to become a pilot herself. So much of my work stands on the shoulders of Bessie Coleman whose heights I can only try to attain.” 


The Bessie Awards is dedicated to recognizing the achievements and efforts of those who have contributed to and impacted the travel industry. Winners are selected through a popular vote from past WITS attendees and former Bessie Award winners. Voting is now open. WITS will announce this year’s winners at the Bessie Awards ceremony taking place Saturday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. AST at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mapp is an awarded and inspirational leader, speaker, public lands champion, outdoor gear designer, and published author. The Oakland, California, native established for-profit venture Outdoor Afro, Inc. in 2021 and subsequently launched a 22-piece hike collection with outdoor retailer REI Co-op. Her first national book titled “Nature Swagger: Stories and Visions of Black Joy in the Outdoors” released with American publisher Chronicle Books during November 2022.

Photo courtesy of WITS Travel Creator Summit by Wanderful ©Crystal Daisy Productions

That same year in February, she participated in an 18-day Hurtigruten Expeditions voyage to Antarctica with Outdoor Afro National Program Director Chaya Harris. Mapp became a founding member of Hurtigruten Group’s first-ever Black Traveler Advisory Board. The board is designed to drive change within the entire cruise industry.

Over the years, Mapp has been recognized with many awards and distinctions. She became a 2021 AFAR Travel Vanguard Award recipient, National Geographic 2019 Fellow, Heinz Awards Honoree, and National Wildlife Federation Communication Award recipient (received alongside President Bill Clinton). The White House also invited Mapp to participate in the America’s Great Outdoors Conference, which led to her participation in the launch of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.

Mapp’s career and community impact through Outdoor Afro aims to lift up the natural world and those who connect with it. Her advocacy for conservation continues to earn international media attention, including The New York Times, Good Morning America, NPR, NBC’s TODAY, Forbes, Oprah Winfrey, and “MeatEater” with Steven Rinella. “I’ve accomplished a lot of life goals,” Mapp said. “For me, it’s always been about a race to the ordinary. I want to get out on my travels and adventures, and see more people who look like me and are represented as strong, beautiful, and free from all over the world. And it’s no longer a big deal.”

Photo courtesy of WITS Travel Creator Summit by Wanderful ©jasonseagle

The Bessie Awards, created by Wanderful and hosted at the annual Women in Travel Summit (WITS) Travel Creator Summit, honor women and gender diverse people of impact in the travel space – particularly influencers, creative entrepreneurs, marketers, brands, and industry members who have added a compelling voice to the travel industry. “We are absolutely thrilled to recognize such an extraordinary group of creators and brands this year for our fifth annual Bessies,” said Beth Santos, Founder and CEO of Wanderful. “We hope that by showcasing their work we can inspire more builders in the space to contribute their voices to make our travel industry even more thoughtful, inclusive, and meaningful.” 

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide movement with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching more than 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.

ABOUT WANDERFUL: Wanderful is a global lifestyle brand that specializes in helping all women travel the world. Reaching more than 100 million women worldwide each year, Wanderful connects travelers through a thriving membership community, meetups in 50 global cities, group trips, global events like WITS Travel Creator Summit, and the first major outdoor travel festival for women, Wanderfest. Learn more here.

ABOUT WITS TRAVEL CREATOR SUMMIT: WITS is the premier event for travel’s top marketing talent. Creative entrepreneurs, influencers, DMOs, and industry come together to discuss future innovations, build dynamic collaborations, and change travel worldwide, all while supporting and empowering a dynamic community of women and gender diverse people. Learn more here

Photo courtesy of WITS Travel Creator Summit by Wanderful

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Candace Dantes

Candace Dantes

Candace Dantes serves as Outdoor Afro's inaugural Communications Director. The fourth-generation cowgirl and award-winning journalist and marketer is based in the Georgia Black Belt Region. For more than a decade, the rural Georgia storyteller has given agency to Black farming and cowhand culture in traditional and new media. From Smalltown USA, she has collaborated with global brands like London's Black Beauty & Hair Magazine and M&C Saatchi. Back home with U.S. Department of Agriculture research grant Black Farmers' Network, Wrangler, Justin Boots and Visit Fort Worth.